May 15, 2017

Wellness Benefits: Don’t Underestimate Their Value to Employees

By David Zanze

If you don’t offer them already, could it be that you consider wellness a lightweight option when it comes to reducing health care spending and not worth the additional cost? The reality is that many employers offer wellness benefits to keep costs down and employee morale up. Wellness initiatives can cover a variety of services including health risk assessments, gym discounts, chronic disease management, company health centers, wellness challenges, health newsletters, and more.


Reducing employees’ need to access more costly care.

While the trend lately is for employers to shift rising healthcare costs to employees through high deductible health plans, this strategy can backfire if it becomes too costly for employees to bear. Studies show that employees will avoid going to the doctor if it is cost prohibitive. This can be costly to your plan and your employee when early signs of a chronic health condition are ignored because it is too expensive to see a doctor. Employees diagnosed with chronic health conditions make up 75 percent of all healthcare costs. Lack of physical activity, poor diets and tobacco use are directly responsible for 70-90 percent of chronic diseases.

By offering a wellness program and promoting good health habits, it gives the power back to employees to achieve and maintain good health. Healthier employees tend to see the doctor less often, which means less out-of-pocket costs for them and lower health care costs for you!


Lowering absenteeism.

Lower absenteeism is another benefit that can result from implementing a wellness program. By having fewer employees call in sick due to health issues, you can reduce overtime payments to cover for the absence. In a 2016 research report by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), their survey results revealed that small group employers (100 or less employees) experienced absenteeism rates of six days per employee who had diabetes and up to 31 days per employee with obesity, costing them $1,621 for diabetes and $8,065 for obesity for sick days alone. Offering a disease/care management program to address specific chronic conditions for your employee population can go far in reducing absenteeism rates and healthcare spending.


Reinforcing good health habits for better productivity.

In addition to cost savings, a wellness program can enhance employee productivity. When employees are reminded of good health habits, such as taking a walk on their breaks, replacing processed, sugar-filled foods with nutritious whole foods and managing their stress better, the results are happier and more productive employees. According to a survey of 20,000 employees by Brigham Young University, employees who rarely ate fruits and vegetables were 93 percent more likely to have a higher loss of productivity. The survey also found that employees who had difficulty exercising during the day were 96 percent more likely to experience a productivity loss. By offering wellness challenges (with incentives) that encourage employees to eat better, exercise more, and stress less, in combination with a wellness newsletter, it reinforces the importance of practicing good health habits and making their health a priority.


Make it easier and more affordable to see a doctor.

Lastly, if you don’t currently have health insurance coverage through Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT), you may be missing out on an opportunity. Exclusive to all WGAT participants and Cedar Network purchasers, the Cedar Health and Wellness Centers offer extended hours, lower copays, bilingual providers and free prevention services. The centers are in Salinas, Watsonville, Santa Maria and Oxnard, and can work in conjunction with a wellness program to provide employees with easy access to quality and affordable health care to save them time and money.

In summary, don’t underestimate the impact a wellness program can have on your bottom line! It can reduce health care costs and lower employee absenteeism rates, increase their productivity and show your employees that you care about their health and well-being—that’s a win-win every way you slice it.

For more information about the benefits of having WGAT as your choice of health insurance, or for wellness programs available through WGA’s subsidiary company Pinnacle Health Management, contact 800.333.4WGA.